A group called Autism Campaigners Together (ACT NOW) are, like all of us, deeply concerned about the cuts. On 18 October members handed in a petition to Downing Street and also launched their Impact Assessment for the cuts announced to date (note, this does not cover the second tranch of cuts, announced last week on 20 October).
Here is a link to ACT NOW's Impact Assessment, detailing the fears of people with Autistic spectrum condition, particularly regarding the introduction of a medical assessment for Disability Living Allowance. The report includes many illustrative quotes, such as:
“It is difficult to imagine that services and provision for adults with autism can actually get any worse, just about nothing exists for them now. It's difficult to see where cuts can be made - my son currently gets no support as the school age support service here has no staff. So the service we've been told he needs doesn't exist.”
“I am Autistic. My nervous system is so hypersensitive which means things are much much brighter, louder and my skin far more sensitive than the average person. A normal sound or sensation for an average person can register anywhere from 30-50 times more powerful for me I have a total lack of sensory filter. I am terrified that people like myself with invisible conditions will end up homeless or worse. I barely leave my home due to
my condition. I think this Government is picking on the vulnerable.”
“Many children and adults with autism, my own included, are terrified at the thought of seeing a doctor. Why is it necessary for a child with a lifelong disability to need a doctor’s assessment? What is the doctor going to assess if my child just sits very quietly in front of the doctor because he is scared of him? I can see a lot of disabled children and adults having benefit withdrawn because of this.”
The Impact Assessment clearly highlights existing issues with support for people with autism and the fact that things cannot afford to get worse: they find it hard to get benefits as it is, without any change to the way DLA is assessed; they may want to work but the support isn’t there; many parents have become full-time carers for their children and are not able to work as a result. Some of the comments from are heartbreaking. For anyone who wants to better understand the challenges for people with autism and their families when navigating the benefits system, this report is essential reading.
One professional is quoted as saying: “We should not be reducing their access to benefits; this will have the effect of increasing anxiety and put them at increased risk of mental health problems. Instead we need to invest in positive approaches in all areas. Cuts now in financial support will lead to a massive increase in costs in the future when services have to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong.”
ACT NOW is calling for talks with David Cameron to discuss their concerns. I hope they are successful but I won’t be holding my breath...